By Frank Galindo
Silver and bronze medals honoring the first navy of the Republic of Texas are being offered to collectors.
Orders for the 2017 TNA medal may be placed for the silver and bronze medal set or single bronze medals, by contacting Frank Galindo, TNA Medals Officer, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at P.O. Box 12217, San Antonio, TX 78212-0217.
Single bronze medals are $6.50 postpaid. Medal sets (one bronze and one silver) are $47 for each set, plus $4.50 per set for postage and handling. If insurance is requested, there is an additional cost of $2.50 per medal set.
Make checks or money orders payable to TNA. The medals will be mailed after the TNA convention, which will be held June 2-4.
The vibrant history of the Republic of Texas has inspired historians and researchers to write many books about the Republic’s heroic struggle for independence. No one person nor one battle can claim distinction for saving the Republic of Texas that led to its independence. It was a cooperative effort, which included the significant contributions of the Texas Navy.
When conflicts arose between Texas and Mexico, the provisional government of Texas feared that the supply lines between New Orleans and Texas would be in danger of attacks from the Mexican Navy. The port in New Orleans provided vital supplies, troops and other essential resources needed by the Texans.
On Nov. 25, 1835, the General Council of the Texas provisional government passed a bill authorizing the purchase of four vessels and for the creation of the First Texas Navy. This bill also permitted the issuance of letters of marque to privateers, which were issued in 1835 and 1836. The privateers helped the Republic in protecting the coast and engaging in battle with Mexican warships.
In January 1836, the four vessels were purchased and officially became the First Texas Navy. They were financed by Galveston banker Samuel May Williams, who later became known as “The Father of the Texas Navy.” The fleet consisted of four schooners: the Liberty commanded by Capt. William S. Brown; the Invincible commanded by Capt. Jeremiah Brown; the Brutus commanded by Capt. William A. Hurd; and the Independence commanded by Capt. Charles E. Hawkins.
On March 12, all of the ships’ officers were appointed by President David G. Burnet, naming Capt. Charles E. Hawkins, who was the senior captain, Commodore of the Texas Navy.
The Texas Navy provided crucial assistance for the duration of the war with Mexico. The Texas Navy ships patroled the Gulf of Mexico, prevented blockades of the Texas coast and engaged in occasional battles. This afforded the Texans a way to receive much needed supplies from New Orleans. It also made it difficult for Mexico to keep its army supplied and prevented Santa Anna from receiving reinforcements. Without additional soldiers and supplies, Santa Anna was doomed, and he met defeat at San Jacinto.
Mexico’s refusal to acknowledge the independence of Texas led the Texas Congress to order six new ships, which were placed under the command of Commodore Edwin Moore. They became known as the Second Texas Navy. They raided the Mexican coast and kept Mexico focused on defending its own coastline. In 1838, France’s naval warships also aided the Republic by attacking Mexico and destroying its naval fleet.
The following is a description from the National Underwater and Marine Agency of the Invincible, the ship that is featured on the obverse of the 2017 Texas Numismatic Association medal.
“The Invincible was commissioned in 1836. She was schooner rigged and very fast for her time. Built in Baltimore, she displaced 125 tons and was approximately 90 feet long. Manned by a crew of 40, her reported armament consisted of two 18 pounders, two 9 pounders, and four 6 pounders. She was responsible for the capture of several Mexican ships that were supplying Santa Anna’s armies, playing a heavy role in aiding (Sam) Houston and the Texas forces during the days after the Alamo.”
There is no question that the small First Texas Navy fleet played a significant role in protecting the independence Texas had declared.
The Texas Navy was dissolved when Texas became the 28th state in the United States of America in 1846. The remaining vessels were reassigned to the United States Navy.
The short life of the Republic of Texas Navy deserves a prominent place in the history of Texas. Texas Navy historian Alex Diest wrote, “Texas could not have won her independence and maintained it as she did, without the navy.”
There is a Third Texas Navy that was founded by Gov. Price Daniel in 1958. It is known as the Texas Navy Association. The Association is a non-profit organization comprised of members who are devoted to preserving the history of the Texas Navy.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.
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